Sunday, 24 Oct 2021

NHS heroes memorial: top doctor backs our bid to honour brave NHS staff

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Professor Atiq-ur Rehman was redeployed at the height of the pandemic as routine operations were halted. He then saw the effect the deadly disease had on medics, especially those new to their jobs.

The consultant vascular and endovascular surgeon is backing the Daily Express Memorial for NHS Heroes campaign for a lasting tribute to selfless health and care workers who have died in the fight against Covid.

Prof Rehman, 58, who works for The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust in the West Midlands, said: “I saw a very physically and mentally tired workforce. 

“I saw tears in doctors and nurses’ eyes during their breaks but they all charged themselves again to continue to see patients while hiding their emotions.

“In this time all NHS staff, juniors and seniors, worked as family. Critical care nurses were exhausted with minimum breaks but still delivering excellent care to patients.

“I can’t explain, and it’s beyond anyone’s imagination, their dedication and commitment in their job and profession. 

“This is the spirit among the NHS staff that makes it a world-class health service. 

“We lost so many lives due to the Covid pandemic but certainly we don’t know how many lives have been saved because of this NHS and a highly professional, dedicated and compassionate staff.”

Britain has the world’s seventh highest Covid death toll. At least 1,561 health and care staff have died in the past 18 months.

Now a stunning £250,000 20ft bronze sculpture, inscribed “You laid your love for those in life. Your sleep is not in vain”, will carry the names of all NHS workers who died.

Cast by top sculptor Nicola Ravenscroft, it will feature two intertwined trees with hundreds of hand-made leaves and roots tumbling over bronze rocks representing eternal life. 

It is set to be unveiled at a central London location next year.

Our memorial campaign also has the backing of Prof Rehman’s daughter Zaira, 30, a medical registrar at the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, and son Saad, 28, a surgical trainee.

Prof Rehman said: “I am immensely proud of both, who were on the front door to serve and deliver the best care to their patients during this pandemic.”

He added: “I have unfortunately lost close friends and family to this pandemic and at the same time seen close ones come back from a point of what we thought was no return. 

“I have seen colleagues put their wellbeing second to ensure patients get the best treatment possible. 

“It has left the medical staff feeling burnt out and tired. However, at the same time they accept that if they do not keep going there will not be enough staff on the ward to care for Covid patients.

“I feel proud to have been part of the NHS that is a world-best health care service and delivered the best patient care during this challenging time.

“NHS staff always put their patients first and this was the case throughout the pandemic. 

“Those who lost their lives should never be forgotten and the memorial will be a lasting testament to their bravery.” 

Donate to the campaign here

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